Mortar and pestle for spices. Scott Henderson’s classic-modern, white, ceramic spice grinder, designed in 2005, is excellent for crushing small quantities of, for example, toasted cumin for Texas chile.
Spatula. In a world of mostly not-so-good spatulas, this narrow Due Buoi spatula, although not wide enough for some purposes, stands out, available from Williams-Sonoma.
Tea kettle. Breville’s IQ Pure glass tea kettle, with five temperature settings, is for committed tea brewers and pour-over and French-press coffee brewers.
Towels for glassware. Linen kitchen towels, absorbent and lint-free, of several sorts, are reasonably priced from the highly respected Thomas Ferguson in Northern Ireland.
Savory Food & Drink
Dried French morels. Much more flavorful than most dried morels, fresh or dried, but costly, from the French company Plantin (via La Cuisine in Virginia, a North American source).
Coffee. The epononymous principal behind George Howell Coffee probably knows more than anyone else in the world about the geographic differences among coffees. His company specializes in the finest beans from individual farms, roasted in small batches.
Wild rice. Native Harvest, part of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, sells wild rice hand-gathered by the Ojibwe of the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
Spices. The Spice House in Milwaukee sells high quality, freshly ground spices. A good source for Tellicherry peppercorns by the pound.
Long pepper. Piper longum, a relative of familiar black pepper (Piper nigrum), takes the form of a long, blackish, dried flower spike embedded with seeds; it has a marked heat and a subtle, clean aroma that hints at menthol. Both species originated in India, but even in some Indian groceries, if you ask for long pepper you may be frustratingly pointed toward chiles. Le Sanctuaire, sells it in 0.8 ounce, 5 ounces, and whole pound sizes; you could divide it up and give long pepper to every curious cook you know.
Cosmonaut Volkov tomato seeds. This indeterminate variety is full of flavor, especially when cooked, though the ripe red fruits tend to have dryish green shoulders, and the flesh is not completely luscious, if that’s what you prefer in salads. Igor Maslov, a Russian space engineer, selected the variety and named it for his friend Vladislav Volkov, a cosmonaut who was killed in the Soyuz 11 tragedy. An excellent source of organic seed at a modest price is the estimable co-op Fedco Seeds.
Dried Mexican chiles. Michael Beary imports half a dozen special Oaxacan chiles — chilcosle, taviche, pasilla de Oaxaca, negro chilhuacle, red chilhuacle, and yellow chilhuacle — available from his Zocalito store.
A whole dry-cured ham. Once or twice a year, we slice a whole, uncooked Southern country ham, prosciutto-style, and people love it. Most often we order from Gatton Farms, also known as Father’s Country Hams, in Bremen, Kentucky. A whole ham is much less expensive than imported dry-cured hams.
Oregano and sage dried in whole branches from Greece. Their flavor is far superior to usual versions. We once made tomato sauce using Sicilian oregano instead, and our son asked what was wrong with it. You can find the herbs, modestly priced, at some Greek grocers or at Kalustyan’s in New York City, online or on Lexington Avenue.
Very special chocolate. In Three Rivers, Massachusetts, Colin Gasko of Rogue Chocolatier produces chocolate bars with fanatical precision from very carefully chosen beans. Available directly and in certain stores.
Nuremburg-style Lebkuchen. In Brooklyn, New York, Sandy Lee’s Leckerlee makes just one??? item: traditional Nuremburg-style lebkuchen, also called Elisenlebkuchen, whose content is nuts rather than any great amount of flour. You can get these spicy, sweet, Christmas cookies (or maybe they’re better described as cakes) in plain form, chocolate-coated, or a mix. In season only.
For the Table
Big linen napkins, 24 inches square. They’re a timeless luxury, and Anichini sells various kinds, including a basic white imported from Italy and more decorative kinds.